Attack on Titan – 28

Conny’s village is full of questions. If the Titans attacked, why is there no blood? If the villagers evacuated, why did they leave all their horses? And what’s with the emaciated Titan on top of Conny’s house? Why did he hear it say “Welcome home?” There are all intriguing mysteries on top of the ones we already have, but the squad has to keep moving, and Conny has to forget about what may or may not have happened to his family and continue his duty.

Krista and Ymir, like Conny, must feel pretty vulnerable without their battle gear, but they’ll simply have to trust that the soldiers around them will keep them safe. Instead of fighting, Krista & Co. will be called upon to bear witness and send reports. Krista is fine with staying, and feels bad that she’s made Ymir join the scouts, but Ymir insists she’s here “for herself and nothing else.” Another Titan in hiding, perhaps?

This is often a creepy show, what with all the bizarre-looking naked humanoids running around eating people, but Titan manages to up that creep-factor not with Titans, but with a lack of them, or anything at all. Two units travel in the pitch black darkness, not knowing what could be just out of range of their light. Turns out, it’s another unit also looking for the gap in Wall Rose…but neither unit actually found one. What exactly is going on here?

Eren & Co. finally reach Ehrmich District, and Levi makes sure Pastor Nick gets a good long look at the faces of the masses of people and families being displaced due to the wall falling. It seems to work, at least a little, as after being harangued again by Hange, he finally gives up one name: Krista Lenz—who he and his order were instructed to monitor, and who may “know the truths which even we cannot perceive.”

Hange believes that Eren may be able to repair the wall breaches…with hardened Titan skin, of the same type that didn’t evaporate after Annie returned to human form. Sasha also re-joins her comrades.

Krista, Ymir, & Co. end up spending the night in an abandoned castle none of them knew about until the moon came out. To their misfortune, a hoard of Titans besieges them, the first instance of Titan night-fighting. It may well have something to do with the fact this is the same group that hangs around the Beast Titan…maybe he trained them?

In any case, Ymir looks shiftier than ever, but she and Krista can only sit back with the other rookies and hope the pros get the job done. Meanwhile, Hange mentions an abandoned castle which I assume is the same one here, and heads there with Eren & Co.

Attack on Titan – 27

After a quick check in with Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and Zoe as they prepare to head to Ehrmich District—during which Zoe hopes her new buddy Pastor Nick will be more forthcoming regarding Wall Titans—the story jumps to Sasha Blouse, and it’s her story that dominates the episode.

A flashback shows she was always ravenous about sneaking food, and was at the time totally against abandoning her huntress lifestyle for the greater good, as her father was contemplating doing. He told her to suit herself, but to be forewarned: If you’re not there for people when they need you, they won’t be there for you.

Arriving at her home to find an unfamiliar new village, she finds only two people still alive: a paralyzed mother being slowly eaten by a small Titan, and the woman’s daughter, who can only sit by, watch, and become profoundly traumitized. Good lord do the kids witness some hellish things in this show.

Sasha is there for the girl and her mother, but the Titan’s nape is too tough for the axe she wields. Her only option is to leave the mother behind to buy time for her and the kid to get away. The girl later says the rest of the village left her and her mother behind (Not cool, villagers. Not cool). Things get even more tense when Sasha’s horse runs off, and you can hear her struggling to keep the panic in her voice, lest she scar this kid eve more (too late for that, I think).

In the flashback with her dad, Sasha spoke in her country bumpkin accent. While running from the Titan with the girl, she remembers a random little interaction with Ymir and Krista, who argued about whether Sasha is kind and polite because she’s scared of people and ashamed of her backwater upbringing, while Krista likes Sasha is just fine, however she wants to be.

Kobayashi Yuu has always been such a great choice for Sasha, because there’s both a gentle and an intense side (usually hangry, but in this case because of the situation) and she nails both perfectly. It’s time to be not-nice when she tells the kid to “Get Runnin’!” Then blinds the Titan to disorient it; ditching the bow to make sure the last arrow finds its mark, and slipping out of the Titan’s grasp thanks to the great deal of blood spilled by its wounds.

Meeting back up with the girl, they soon hear horse hooves: her father and others from her village. It’s the first time in three years she’s seen her dad. He knows what she did for the little girl, and when he tells her “Sasha…Yer all I hoped for,” its a lovely, warm moment of reconciliation.

Sasha didn’t quite get it before she left home, but she does now. Livin’ in the woods alone just ain’t gonna cut it no more; people gotta be non-awful-like if they’re to be survivin’.

Sasha may have found her dad and a little girl in her village, but when Connie arrives in his home village, it doesn’t look good at all…particularly the horrifying Titan with emaciated limbs lying face up on top of his family’s house.

Since we don’t see any bodies, there’s hope some or even all of Connie’s family got out, but more importantly, how did a Titan that can no longer move end up there? It looks like it could have been dropped down there like a giant sack of potatoes.

Keeping Eren and Mikasa on the sidelines hasn’t hurt the show two episodes in a row now thanks to a smidge more backstory on Sasha, whose gluttony shtick used to annoy me, but has become a much more sympathetic character…someone I definitely don’t want eaten.

Attack on Titan – 26 (Start of Season 2)

The Gist: A Titan is discovered inside Wall Sina. Pastor nick warns the scouts to cover it in sheets. Even when Zoe threatens to kill him, he won’t tell her anything he knows.

Wall Rose is breached and Titans are roaming. 12 hours earlier, the 104th Trainees are on standby in plainclothes when Mike mobilizes them to warn the villages of the attacking Titans while he buys time.

Mike encounters a furry beast-like Titan who can speak. It asks Mike about his gear, but Mike is too frightened to respond, and the beast-Titan snatches up Mike’s gear and lets the other Titans eat him.

After four years of waiting—less for me because I retro reviewed it on a lark—and many delays, Attack on Titan is finally back, and the hype surrounding it is inevitable. Titan has a huge and passionate fanbase that has been very patient, and I would say that those who who wanted more of season one’s intense action-packed horror-drama got what they wanted.

I for one found Titan’s first season quite entertaining and addictive, so I count myself among that group. No boats were rocked here. Bringing down Annie may have been a small victory, but humans are still fighting for their lives, and not at all helped out by the bureaucracies that run things, who are intentionally (and very suspiciously) keeping the people who fight on the front lines in the dark.

My only main gripe with this abrupt return to the Titan storyline is that the main triad of Eren, Mikasa, and Armin were sidelined except for a small scene where Eren wakes up and talks with Mikasa about her scarf before Armin bursts in to tell them about the Titans in the wall.

That means the episode is largely about the secondary and tertiary casts, including Mike, who goes off on his own to serve as a decoy to enable Connie, Sasha, Reiner and Bertholt and other 104s to spread out and get word to the villages that the Titans Are Coming (not that there’s much to be done). And for Mike’s trouble, he has his own poor horse thrown at him by the apparent leader of a pack of roaming Titans.

This isn’t just any Titan, though: it’s an “abnormal”, Sasquatch-Like Titan with an intelligent glint in its eye and, most importantly, the ability to speak in the human tongue. When I first heard him, I wasn’t sure who was talking, and was taken just as aback as Mike and could totally understand why even someone second in skill only to Levi was absolutely paralyzed with fear by this Titan frikkin’ talking to him like it’s nothing.

Alas, as well-spoken as Beast Titan is, he shows no mercy once he has what he’s interested in—Mike’s gear—and sics the other Titans on Mike in a horrifying display that closes the episode, seemingly showing a lot more gore than it really is in typical Titan fashion. R.I.P. Sniffy.

Between Beast Titan, Wall Titan, and a tight-lipped clergy, there looks to be plenty of problems for Eren, Mikasa, and whoever else manages to stay alive, to deal with in this long-awaited 12-episode second season of Attack on Titan, a show that never ceases to demonstrate just how much better your life is than the poor bastards who live in its world.

Not being chased and eaten by goofy-yet-terrifying Titans = #Winning.

Attack on Titan – 25 (Fin)

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A Priest of the Wall is preaching in a packed temple, when all of a sudden, Annie the Titan bursts through the walls, killing dozens. When Eren punched her, he wasn’t thinking about the people inside, but rather how much damage he could do to Annie with his punch. Annie, who always looked so smug and bored, keeping her dark secret to herself while mixing with the rest of humanity when it suited her.

No more. Eren’s fighting spirit is fueled just as much by hate and resentment than a desire to save mankind. And in order to beat Annie, who has shed her allegiance to humanity altogether, he must be a monster, unconcered with the collateral damage to the district.

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Even though those behind Wall Sina contribute next to nothing to the survival of mankind, and live within a false shell of security forged from the deaths of those from the outer walls, they’re still largely innocent men, women, and children, like a little girl walking through the streets, bloodied, dazed, and almost certainly orphaned. While this is on the whole a duel between giants in what is to them a toy city, the episode makes sure to capture the human toll of their brutal melee.

After getting beaten to a pulp by the technically superior Annie, Eren gets his second wind by remembering the promise he made five years ago after the Titans first invaded: he’d exterminate every last one of them without fail. That must naturally include Annie, so he powers up into a kind of overdrive mode and overpowers her. Panicked she may actually lose, Annie tries to flee over the wall.

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Throughout the fight, we hear Eren’s inner monologue, but unfortunately, not Annie’s. However, we do see flashes of a past even in which her father is embracing her in apparent forgiveness, telling her he’ll be on her side even if the entire world becomes her enemy. The details on what exactly happened in Annie’s past to cause this encounter and lead to her gaining the ability to transform are nonexistent, but at least we now know that Annie’s actions weren’t totally random, but driven by this seminal past event in her life.

However much death and destruction she’s caused, she feels justified, if not totally immune to the judgment of the masses. Maybe she has no “leader” to report to or to deliver Eren to; perhaps Annie is doing all of this for Annie, and no one else.

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Her getaway is thwarted by a clutch Mikasa, who is able to slice even Annie’s crystallized digits off, sending her falling to the ground, where a berserk Eren proceeds to de-limb and decapitate her. Hange is concerned he’ll kill Annie in his rage, and with it the captive the Scout Regiment needs to survive the ramifications of this operation.

But he doesn’t. When he sees Annie within the Titan nape, unconscious, helpless, crying, and connected by tissue the same way he is, Eren freezes. All the resolve he’d built up melts away simply due to the sight of the Annie he knows. That hesitation allows Annie to (voluntarily or not) become encased in hard crystal that no blade can cut.

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Eren emerges from the Titan, exhausted but unharmed. Mikasa stays by his bedside as he makes a full recovery. Erwin manages to convince the Mayor and other bigwigs that they were able to accomplish something, by uncovering a potential epidemic of Titans hiding among mankind; Annie and Eren are surely not alone.

For now, Eren still has the key to his basement, Annie remains encased in crystal under Hange’s care, and Erwin vows to go on the offensive against the Titans. We have plenty of seeds for a second season, which is apparently arriving some time this year. With all the questions left unanswered mysteries left unsolved, and, of course, that creepy Titan peering out from inside the wall, I don’t see how I can miss it.

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Attack on Titan – 24

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So, here we are: Annie is very  out-in-the-open about being the Female Titan, but it doesn’t change her plan: to capture Eren. Why is a question that remains unclear: if she wanted to deprive the humans of a weapon against other Titans, she could just kill him, like she killed Hange’s two test subjects. She’s been very careful to keep Eren alive.

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This episode flashes back to the planning of Annie’s trap, along with an Eren who won’t accept that Annie is the Titan, no matter how much circumstantial evidence Armin and Mikasa come up with to try to convince him. Back in the present, on the run in tunnels they thought would be safe but are actually quite the opposite, Eren finds out just how devastating the inability to give nothing up can be.

With no resolve whatsoever to kill or even harm Annie anymore, he can’t transform into a Titan when he needs to the most, no matter how much he may want to transform, it can only be for a purpose, and his heart just isn’t in it. He must’ve thought back to all those fun pillow fights with Annie back during their cadet days (which we never saw):

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Eren’s problem, then, isn’t that he doesn’t believe Annie is the Female Titan; that much is clear at this point, now that he notices the resemblance both in their appearance and fighting style (along with the fact she transformed right in front of him).

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But while Eren can’t give up on Annie as a human and a friend, Annie can give up everything, which is why she can transform any time she likes and kill with abandon. Even Armin and Mikasa put their lives on the line in a gambit to allow Eren to escape. As Mikasa says, it’s a cruel world. Shit like this goes down, and you can’t worry about what’s right, or you’re dead.

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Mikasa and Armin successfully lure Annie into a trap by Hange, but I knew from the pittance of arresting cables that she wouldn’t be held for long…It might’ve served Hange to fully incapacitate Annie before gloating about catching her then describing what she’s going to do with her (everything she can).

But this isn’t about whether the Scout Regiment can catch Annie, or whether Armin and MIkasa and Jean or Erwin and Levi and Hange can somehow pull something off without Eren in the picture.

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The only thing that’s going to bring Annie down is Eren in Titan form. And to become a Titan, he’s going to have to convince himself to give up on the idea of Annie as a friend to be cherished, but an enemy to be killed without hesitation.

Buried by rubble and with a stick of wood in his chest, Eren thinks back to all of the people lost before his eyes and/or in front of him, starting with his mother being eaten years ago in Shiganshina where it all started. This isn’t time to be worried about his soul, or about not being to walk away having lost nothing. This is about putting everything—even his humanity—on the line, and getting the job done.

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Attack on Titan – 23

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This week starts out pretty quietly, as we look into Annie Leonhart’s life as a military policeman. The unit she belongs to is full of people who don’t care and led by a commander who’d rather play cards with the buds than lead, delegating the scout regiment escort duties to Marlo, someone with a strong sense of justice who has come to root out the corruption of the police.

Inside Wall Sina, soldiers clearly don’t have much to do, and idle hands are the devil’s playthings. Yet when actually faced with corruption occurring before his eyes, and Marlo gingerly points out the crimes his superiors are committing, they try bribing him, then beat the crap out of him when he persists.

Annie stays the hand of one of the superiors, while Hitch smooths everything over. But more importantly, Annie gives Marlo a second chance to prove he means what he says about punishing those who break the law. Marlo can kill those corrupt officers, but he doesn’t. Marlo, Annie concludes, is no Eren: full of bluster, but actually willing to follow through.

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When the scout regiment convoy arrives, Annie’s unit commences escort duties, but she’s drawn into an alley by a familiar voice: Armin’s. He’s just able to convince her to help sneak Eren out of custody of the selfish, ignorant bigwigs. It isn’t long before Armin and Annie have met up with Eren and Mikasa, and the three lead Annie to the entrance to a subterranean tunnel they’ll use to escape Wall Sina. Only…Annie doesn’t want to go in there, neither confirming or denying a fear of small, enclosed spaces.

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But it isn’t long until all pretense falls away, and Annie realizes this was all a trap to capture her. Armin knew as soon as he saw her, or rather Marco’s gear, that something wasn’t right, and wonders why she didn’t kill him out beyond the wall.

Out of convenient excuses, Annie knows the jig is up, even as Eren implores her to come down with them so they can figure this all out. Finally, Mikasa loses her patience and draws her sword, being the first to come right out and say it: Annie is the Female Titan.

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To this, Annie shows a side of herself we’ve never seen, and it’s at once wonderful and incredibly disturbing. Now that she’s been found out, Annie appears ecstatic and flush with excitement, and her voice changes. Granted, lots of villains and villainesses make similar faces and start cackling all the time, but there was something particularly unnerving about Annie doing it. That’s a face that’ll haunt your dreams.

Unfortunately for Eren, Armin, Mikasa, and all the people gathered to arrest her, Annie is wearing a ring with a retractable blade with which she can use to cut and transform herself. They simply aren’t quick enough to stop her. There’s some consolation in the trio heading safe underground, but they have to come back up eventually, and in the meantime Annie will be wreaking havoc at the very core of human civilization.

My only beefs with this development? Well, it was telegraphed pretty early on, so at this point I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop (which had its own tension). But more importantly, Annie just didn’t make that strong of an impression on me early on, and she hadn’t been an important part of the story until she showed up in Titan form, so her betrayal doesn’t nearly cut as deep as the show wants it to.

So, can they stop her? Reason with her? Live another day? Looks like the remaining two episodes of AoT will be spent answering those questions.

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Attack on Titan – 22

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Levi and Mikasa (but mostly Levi) succeeds in disabling the Female Titan to the point he can extract Eren from her mouth, betting everything that he’s still alive as Mikasa insists. That’s obviously good for Eren’s well-being, but part of me still wanted to see exactly where, or who, the Titan was taking him to, and for what purpose (though the fact he can transform like she can is obviously a front-runner for why).

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In any case, Eren is unconscious and goo-covered, but alive, as are many other scouts like Armin, Jean, and Sasha. But many are also dead, and they’ve been busy gathering the bodies and preparing them for the journey back behind the wall. This is like the grisly aftermath of the Trost battle, only there isn’t even a victory here with which to say it was worth it.

This was total defeat and failure, and it only gets worse when the bodies are loaded but the wagons can’t outrun Titans (who were led out of the forest and to the formation by two scouts desperate to find their friend’s body). Not only do they re-lose that body, but the soldiers on the wagon have to dump some of the bodies they have—including Petra’s, as Levi sees—in order to outrun the Titans.

It’s one more awful, morbid action people in this show must take in order to keep living, and a Sasha says, only half-believing it herself, being alive is something, right?

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In a manner that’s almost too rubbed in our faces, Eren dreams of the day the Scount Regiment returned, all solemn, defeated, bandaged faces and corpses, and when he got so damned mad at the townsfolk complaining about how the scouts just waste their taxes. When he wakes up, Mikasa is with him but is no comfort when they re-enter the walls to find just as cold and critical a reception, only now they’re the scouts.

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Even worse, Eren sees two bright-eyed, bushy-tailed youths watching the scouts’ procession full of excitement and hope. Neither Eren nor Mikasa can even put on fake faces of strength or confidence; they’re merely slack-jawed. That used to be them; now they know why those Scouts looked the way they did.

Finally, because Erwin didn’t actually accomplish anything on their expensive operation, they’re being called to the Capital to answer for his failure, while Eren is being placed back into custody. Things have just about hit rock bottom…but I won’t underestimate this show’s talent for finding still lower depths of despair.

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Attack on Titan – 21

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AoT’s pacing during its building up can be foot-tappingly sluggish, and it’s a show that loves to have its characters explain every last detail of what’s happening ad nauseum, but it can still stage one hell of an intense payoff, as it does this week when the She-Titan pilot takes out Gunter, transforms back into a Titan, and then kills off Erd, Petra, and Oulo in quick succession. All Eren can do is watch, as he made his decision to place his belief in his friends over his belief in himself.

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It proves to be the wrong decision, just as his decision not to fight the She-Titan when he first encountered it was the wrong decision. I thought that Levi looked somewhat surprised when Eren decided to press forward, allowing him to lead the Titan to Erwin’s trap. But the trap was the wrong decision, too.

Sure, you’re supposed to believe in your comrades, and perfectly-executed traps are supposed to work, but Erwin and Eren both learn that doing things that seem most reasonable aren’t effective when dealing with the Titans, especially this one. I knew some shit was going to hit the fan, but the shit was so thick it stopped the fan blades in their tracks. Gunter, Erd, Oulo, or Petra? Sure, one or two were bound to die. But all of them? That’s some rough carnage.

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But one good thing comes out of that carnage: it provokes Eren into a murderous, vengeful rage, transforming into full-on Titan Mode (no partial manifestation) and getting into the best Titan-on-Titan battle yet, an epic struggle in which Eren’s brute force intermittently finds purchase with the slick, slippery She-Titan, who also packs a punch due to her ability to harden her skin.

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Throughout this battle all the way until the end of the episode, my heart rate went up and my adrenaline didn’t stop pumping. But while it’s clear now who’s inside the She-Titan, Eren doesn’t pick up on it. He doesn’t realize someone used these kinds of moves on him before, in human form. No, he’s too goddamn angry to think about anything other than beating her into oblivion.

That proves his undoing, however, as he blasts his own fists away and has to wait for them to heal. Also, after appearing to walk away from the fight when he’s down, the She-Titan turns back and blasts Eren’s head off, exposing the human within, which she swallows. Now, we’ve been here before, so again, Eren clearly isn’t dead, but he definitely lost a fight I thought he’d win. He just lacked the experience in his Titan form and over-relied on his brutality. The way of water beat the way of fire here.

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As if this episode wasn’t awesome enough, Mikasa shows up just in time not to save Eren, but watch him get glomped by the She-Titan. Her sudden transition from shocked-and-fragile Mikasa to Pissed-and-Lethal Mikasa was wonderful to behold, as is her ultimately futile attempt to get Eren back immediately by chasing the She-Titan and slashing the shit out of her.

Like Eren, Mikasa falls victim to lack of experience when she goes for the nape only to hit the She-Titan’s crystalline shell. She took her shot and missed, but looks fully prepared to go at it again, but we can guess how it would have ended: out of gas, out of blades, and with no Eren to save her. Instead, Levi grabs her from death-by-blaze-of-glory, and we’re glad for it. Let them try it his way, if he has one.

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Next Week: My AoT Retro Reviews come to an end, just in time for Christmas.

Attack on Titan – 16

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The mystery of who killed Sonny and Bean remains that this week, as an investigation turns up no culprits. But there isn’t time to worry about that now; the Scout Regiment must prepare to head out beyond Wall Rose to retrieve the secret in Eren’s basement, which is a potential MacGuffin if I ever heard of one.

While last week focused entirely on Eren settling into his new assignment, this week gets back to his fellow 104th cadets, who must still choose which regiment they’ll join, despite being profoundly traumatized by the battle and the clean-up that followed. Some are sure of where they’re going—Mikasa and Armin to the Scouts, Annie to the Police—but Connie, Sasha, and especially Jean wring their hands a lot more.

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When the night of the choosing is upon them, scores of cadets head for the hills after hearing Erwin’s stirring but not altogether encouraging speech, curtly informing them that in the last four years, 60% of the Scouts have been wiped out, and he can’t guarantee those losses will go down just because they now have Eren.

What Erwin does do, without sugarcoating anything, is lay out their plan to return to Shiganshina, in hopes the answer to defeating the Titans for good lies there (a huge assumption, but one made by desperate people).

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The ones who remain, less than two dozen, include all of the cadets who hung around Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, except for Annie and Marco. I’m gradually learning their names, but to be honest there are so many and they get so little time on screen it’s tough keeping track of them all, aside from the very distinctive Sasha, Connie, and Krista.

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There’s no rest for the weary, as the newly-minted Scouts are immediately integrated into Erwin’s plan to do a practice run outside the wall to test whether getting Eren to Shiganshina is possible. This means Eren is reunited with Mikasa and Armin, and to the show’s credit, Mikasa demonstrates her undying devotion to Eren by neither forgiving nor forgetting what Levi did to him.

Eren is surprised to see Jean, and almost disproportionately devastated when he learns Marco died. But Marco, it would seem, is one reason Jean joined up, despite lacking what he perceives as Eren’s “death wish.”

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Marco died quietly, ingloriously, and no one witnessed his end, nor will any songs be sung. It just happened, like it did with countless other humans, be they soldiers or not. He also died without Eren ever noticing, until he was told by those who saw his body. I guess Jean took another look at himself as a military policeman after all he’d been through, and heard the words of praise from a comrade, and decided “I can contribute more directly to the cause.”

By doing so, he figures to die in a manner more likely to be remembered. But he’d rather not die at all, which is why he implores Eren, who still isn’t sure he can control his Titan form, to please, please don’t let them down. Don’t let any more of his comrades end up like Marco. Jean tells Mikasa not everyone can die unconditionally for Eren like her. Jean has conditions. If he’s going to die, he wants it to be for a good reason, and for someone to notice when it happens.

As the Scout Regiment storms out of the gates with purpose, in search of glory and salvation, there’s a good chance those conditions will be met.

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Attack on Titan – 14

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AoT is a show in which Eren and pretty much everyone else around him is usually fighting for their lives. As such, it is more necessary than other less “lethal” shows to suspend disbelief that this week will finally Eren’s last. The truth is, he’s the protagonist, and he’s not going anywhere. So the show has to be clever in order to keep the audience suspended in disbelief, like a scout regiment soldier suspended in the air.

This week, I couldn’t help but come to the ground, probably because I couldn’t silence the voice of a theoretical 90’s-style overdone television commercial for this episode: “This week on Attack on Titan: Eren goes on trial. Will he live…or die?”, and so forth. Opening the second cour of AoT with a stodgy standalone trial episode with a foregone conclusion frankly wasn’t all that engaging.

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Forget the feeling this is just a formality, and the nagging certainty that Eren would be spared the proverbial guillotine. After all the horrors and near-misses we’ve faced with Eren, a courtroom setting populated mostly with ignorant wimps just doesn’t feel that threatening. C-in-C Zackley is built up as this force to be reckoned with, but he’s mostly just a bore who is not only constantly failing to keep order in the court, but doesn’t even seem particularly interested in doing so.

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I kinda pumped my fist, then, when Levi essentially puts an end to the farce by approaching Eren and then proceeding to beat the ever-loving crap out of him, an effort to show he can control him, but also to call out all the schlubs who talk big but weren’t ready to back up their bluster with action. Sure, Levi activates Angry Mikasa, but it would seem Armin has the ability to hold her back in such situations. If he didn’t, I still think Levi would give her a run for her money; he seems a true-grit kinda fellow.

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Zackley decides to hand Eren over to the Scout Regiment, represented by Erwin Smith, Levi, Hange Zoe (who seems to have a scientific inclination) and Mike Zacharias (who likes sniffing people then sneering). Between them, only Erwin seems normal. As it turns out, Levi only beat up Eren in order to convince Zackley to let the Scouts take him out to the exterior, to see if he can truly be a benefit to humanity.

Mind you, Levi didn’t hold back, but he did have to sell it, even to a judge as disinterested as Zackley. And Eren seems to still possess rapid-healing powers, as the tooth he lost to Levi’s beating is already growing back.

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Attack on Titan – 13

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The episode that marks the end of the first half of Attack on Titan also, mercifully, marks the end of the interminable Battle of Trost. It’s an episode full of big, great, “Hell Yeah” moments. One of those is when everyone, believing they’re all at death’s door, suddenly stops what they’re doing and listen to the steady, ominous footsteps. Clearly they’re from a Titan, but it’s when they see the boulder moving that they know it’s their Titan, Eren, finally doing what he’s supposed to be doing.

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Finally, with the mission on the right track, everyone knows what to do: Eren must be protected at all costs. If he is swarmed by Titans again and God forbid, drops that boulder, it really is all over. Mikasa for one, is clearly not going to let any Titans get near him, belting out a primal war cries as she cuts them down one by one.

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Another great moment is when Eren finally gets to the broken gate and slams the boulder in place, kicking up a huge cloud of dust. All the torment of the arc’s past episodes seems to be worth it; for the first time, the humans can truly claim victory over the Titans (albeit thanks to another Titan). Rico admires Eren’s handiwork and is staggered by the enormity of what just happened. An most importantly, none of the hundreds of soldiers who fell today died in vain; they all died so that the gate could be sealed and the district saved.

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But there are still a good number of Titans still within the walls, so as much as everyone wants to stand down or pass out from exhaustion, there’s still a battle to be won. Fortunately for Mikasa, Armin, and a freshly-extracted Eren (it seems to get tougher and tougher to separate him from the Titan…uh-oh), the cream of the Scout Regiment arrives, confused by what the hell just happened, but ready to mop up. Captain Levi’s movements in particular are like nothing we’d seen in the battle before, even from Mikasa.

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With the last of the Titans dealt with, the butcher’s bill comes in: over 200 dead, nearly 1,000 wounded. It’s up for the soldiers like Jean and Sasha to gather up the bodies (or what’s left of them, having been horrifically spit up by stuffed Titans) and burn them before an epidemic finishes what the Titans started. It’s a ghoulish, traumatic business that ensures there won’t be any celebration for this first victory; not while one is surrounded by the stench of the burning remains of comrades.

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The final big moment of the episode, which paves the way for the second half, is when Eren wakes up behind bars, chained to his bed. He may have been the linchpin of the operation that saved Trost District and Wall Rose, but he’s still a potentially dangerous and unstable element, so the bars and chains are a wise precaution.

Fortunately, it would also seem that his captors hew more towards Pixis than Woerman, with actions driven by reason rather than fear. The commander of the Scout Regiment, flanked by Levi, simply asks Eren what he wants to do. If they’re to investigate Dr. Yeager’s secrets, hidden in the basement of Eren’s now-destroyed home in Titan-riddled Shiganshina, having a Titan on their side could prove as decisive as it was in the battle of Trost.

Eren wants to join the scouts and drive the Titans out. That impresses Levi enough to decide to take him under his wing. With a clear path set for the second half, and an interesting new master-student dynamic, I’m looking forward to seeing how things shake out with Eren, Levi, Mikasa, and Armin.

As for the other members of the 104th? Well…aside from Sasha and Jean, they haven’t made much of an impact for me, and even those two are a bit muddled. IMO AoT has most effective when it has resisted the urge to give every single character their two minutes in the sun, and instead focused on the core trio.

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First Half Pros/Cons:

Pros:

  • Richly-rendered world with well-defined scale and complexity
  • Palpable atmosphere of large-scale despair, desperation and futility
  • The Titans stike a weird balance of terrifying and cute
  • The Eren/Mikasa/Armin dynamic works very well, with each character contributing a unique strength
  • Mikasa is the undisputed star, cool outside but all churning emotions inside, making it all the more awesome when they break out

Cons:

  • Front-loading of episodes with recapping and retracing to start episodes
  • I’m sure the creator/producers thought through the 3D harnesses, but it still took a while to get on board with the fact they actually worked, and how
  • The supporting cast is generally bland, amorphous, and served mostly to steal valuable time from main triad
  • Excessive explanation combined with camera cutaways from overt gore suggest the targeted audience is younger than me
  • The show suffers from inconsistent pacing; the Trost battle went on far too long

Attack on Titan – 12

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After another extremely long and annoying (for someone semi-marathoning) recap of What’s Happened So Far on AoT, we return to the situation in Trost: Eren has transformed into a Titan, but he’s useless. All he manages to do is blast both of his fists off going after Mikasa, who insists to her CO Ian that Eren is “family”, not her boyfriend. Your blushing says it’s more complicated than that, Miss Ackerman.

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She suspends herself in front of his face and tries to reason with him, to no avail, so the episode, like many others before it, is more about what happens when things go wrong than what happens when they go right. But to the credit of Ian and the elite squad with Mikasa, the mission to protect Eren, even though he’s currently useless, takes precedence over their own lives.

Rico is angry about it, because he doesn’t think Eren is worth it, but he still obeys orders. He doesn’t let The Fear overcome his discipline. Instead, he resolves to go out fighting, showing the Titans what they’re made of. Elsewhere in the district, Jean tries to keep it together and prove—more to himself than the others—that he has what it takes to be a good soldier.

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Every minute Eren is out of action, dozens of soldiers both fit and unfit are being slaughtered and/or eaten by the growing horde of Titans. Pixis admits that he and he alone is responsible for these deaths, but is willing to be called a butcher if his actions save humanity.

Even though the elite squad signaled failure, he’s not throwing in the towel. Of course, one could say a great many of these soliders were going to die whether Pixis hatched this cockamamie plan or not, and one would be correct. If they do nothing, humanity is eventually going to be toast, to a man. So why not try something?

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Speaking of which, when Mikasa’s verbal pleadings fail to rouse Eren (who is stuck in an idealized dream in their old house in Shiganshina with his still-alive parents), it falls to Armin to try something else. Remembering the location from where Eren emerged was the same as the weak spot of all Titans, he digs his sword in, nicking Eren in the arm, and yells at him through the opening to wake the fuck up.

Again, AoT demonstrates why Eren and Mikasa alone can’t survive; it takes Armin’s extra perspective. Mikasa never would have risked harming Eren by stabbing him in the neck, but that’s exactly what needed to be done to snap him out of his blissful but self-destructive fantasy. Now that he’s awake, we’ll see if Eren’s able to exert enough control to pick up that boulder and seal the gate. Better late than never, right?

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Attack on Titan – 11

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Supreme Commander Pixis decides the fate of humanity will depend on whether Eren can seal the broken gate with a boulder. At no point does he ever go a step further to what the plan is if Eren can’t, or say, if the Colossal and Armored Titans reappear and destroy the boulder or blast a new hole in the wall. I guess that doesn’t really matter at the moment; one crisis at a time and all that.

The advantage of semi-marathoning (2-3 episodes per week) is that I can go from one episode to the next without waiting a week. In the case of the Battle of Trost arc, I’m starting to wonder how viewers back in Spring 2013 could stand the snail’s pace. Part of that is the fact the first few episodes covered five years; for the last seven to be about the same battle is a bit disorienting.

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Time is moving so slowly, serious damage has been done to the arc’s sence of urgency. Despite often claiming there’s no time in various ways, there’s still plenty of time for leisurely strolls along the wall and interminable motivational (or sobering) speeches. A disadvantage to semi-marathoning also rears its head: the use of narration and repetition of events we just watched don’t do the episode’s urgency any favors.

Stretch out a daylong battle across so many episodes, and the viewers’ minds can stray. I know that if this battle had been wrapped up by now, I wouldn’t be noticing details like it’s strange that Pixis’ voice can carry far enough for everyone below to hear him, or soldiers worrying about “losing discipline”…as dozens of scared soldiers start deserting en masse. Uh, I think that’s a sure sign discipline has already been lost, actually…

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Finally, near the end, we get beautiful and highly kinetic sequence of soldiers flying through the city. I’d been mired in speeches and exposition so long, this scene made me sit up straight. Like the rest of the episode, it’s little more than people getting into position, but it does so without listing a bunch of names of redshirts we may never meet, something Rico does to Eren as they’re running. Why does everyone suddenly think Eren’s a spoiled brat? He’s going to save everybody.

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Only, he’s not. Not really. And that was the most glaring problem with this episode, from my perspective: Titan-Eren was never going to actually succeed. When he transforms, he turns from the boulder and smashes the roof where Mikasa is standing, in an apparent attempt to kill her. Oops.

This show has proven, Lucy-from-Peanuts-like, that just because it’s carefully positioning a football on the ground, doesn’t mean it won’t pull it back up just when you’re about to kick it, leaving you, Charlie, flat on your back. Not always, mind you: Armin’s gambit worked very nicely indeed.

But past results are no guarantee of future success, and it would have been too easy if Eren just picked up the boulder and plugged the hole like a good Demi-Titan. So…how about that Plan B?

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